A SPECIAL coronavirus testing site for care homes has been set up in North Yorkshire amid warnings from a public health leader we could be living with the virus for the next 12 to 18 months.

So far in the pandemic 249 people across the county have died in hospitals and 188 in care homes. North Yorkshire's Director of Public Health Dr Lincoln Sargeant told a briefing of emergency leaders cases of the coronavirus have come down to levels where the test and trace scheme can identify new cases, rapidly find people they have been in contact with and pull them out of the general circulation so they don't pass on the infection.

Dr Sargeant said: "The virus depends on us to spread. We now have test and trace and a situation where it is really important that people act quickly. If we don't take control it can escalate. It is vital people recognise you can confine the cases if you react quickly.

"If you are with loads of people it becomes a nightmare and with the super spreaders. The risk to young people is actually quite low and they can think they have nothing to lose, but the concern is you might take that home and interact with the family, you may then lose your nan.

"It is encouraging people to yes have fun but you have to look at the virus waiting, it is looking for those actions that allow it to spread. My best guess is, it is a virus that surges in winter, we have to take a cautious approach we could be dealing with local outbreaks for the next 12 to 18 months."

The warnings come as the council revealed a satellite Covid-19 testing site has been set up in Scarborough providing 500 testing swabs a day for care homes.

Richard Flinton, chair of the Resilience Forum said: "We have been working closely with the care sector to contain outbreaks of the virus as well as supporting the NHS and our hospitals. We hope this site will be a step forward, speeding up and managing the testing operation so we can track and contain the virus with greatest effect."

Assistant Chief Constable Mike Walker told the briefing the police are reducing issuing Fixed Penalty Notices for contraventions of coronavirus restrictions having previously issued more than any other force. He said people are now listening more. "There are also more excuses for people to be out and about but we will be continuing to respond to complaints and reports from members of the public," he added.